Guwahati: In a major revamp of the GST tax structure, the GST Council on Friday removed 178 items from the highest 28 percent category while cutting the tax on all restaurants outside starred-hotels to 5 percent but withdrawing input tax credit (ITC) facility for them.
Hailing the move, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said the recommendations made by the GST Council will further benefit the people and add strength to the tax regime.
Modi also said public participation was at the core of the government's functioning and that all its decisions were "people-friendly and people-centric".
"The recommendations made by the GST Council today will further benefit our citizens and add strength to the GST. These recommendations are in a spirit of the continuous feedback we are getting from various stakeholders on GST," he said on Twitter.
Industry veterans also welcomed the changes, saying these would boost consumer demand.
Only 50 products, including luxury and sin items, white goods, cement and paints, automobiles, aeroplane and yacht parts have been retained in the top 28 percent slab.
"The GST Council has decided to slash tax slabs of 178 items from 28 percent to 18 percent. It will be applicable from 15th of this month (November)," Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said while briefing media persons after the two-day meeting here.
But the Opposition leaders took potshots at the Centre for finally reducing the tax rates of at least 178 items and moving them to a lower slab from a higher 28% slab.
West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra had earlier told reporters that the loss on account of a "hasty and ill-designed" GST had resulted in the exchequer losing around Rs 60,000 crore for the Centre and Rs 30,000 crore for the states in just the first three months.
With the latest decisions, GST has been cut on a host of consumer items such as chocolates, chewing gum, shampoo, deodorant, shoe polish, detergents, nutrition drinks, marble and cosmetics.
Luxury goods such as washing machines and air conditioners have been retained at 28 percent.
"Thirteen items, which were earlier under 18 percent, have been brought down to 12 percent. Six goods have come down from the 18 percent slab to five percent, eight items have come down from 12 percent to 5 percent and six items from 5 percent to zero tax," Jaitley said.
Eating out has become cheaper as all restaurants outside high-end hotels charging over Rs 7,500 per room will uniformly levy GST of 5 percent. The facility of input tax credit for restaurants is, however, being withdrawn as they had not passed on this benefit to consumers, Jaitley said.
Restaurants in hotels with rooms above Rs 7,500 per day would continue to pay 18 percent GST with the benefit of input credit.
The GST Council also made changes in return filing procedures to reduce the compliance burden for the small taxpayers. It decided that filing GSTR 3B would continue till March 31, 2018.
"All taxpayers will continue to file GSTR 3B. In case of small taxpayer or nil tax payments, 3B will be simplified so that in two or three steps one can easily file their return," Finance Secretary Hasmukh Adhia told reporters on his turn.
"The Council also decided that for this fiscal, only GSTR 1 will be filled and because we are running in a backlog - where we will file the return for July only by December 11," he said.
"For taxpayers above Rs 1.5 crore turnover and who have a large number of invoices, we do not want to keep their returns pending for a quarter and instead they should file their invoices monthly," he added.
The Council also decided that penalty for late filing for a 'Nil' taxpayer would now be at Rs 20 per day from the earlier Rs 200, and for others, it was cut to Rs 50 per day.
The Council deferred a decision on bringing real estate under GST to its next meeting, for lack of time.
Welcoming the changes, industry body ASSOCHAM said these would lead to a pickup in consumer demand and help revive business sentiment.
"The increase in the composition scheme threshold would make life much easier for the small business entities," ASSOCHAM Secretary General DS Rawat said in a statement.
Deloitte India Partner Mahesh Jaising said, "The reduction in GST rates should reduce the burden on the common man. Hopefully, this is the start of the changes which are eagerly anticipated."
Abhishek Jain, Tax Partner, EY said the Council meeting had produced "a mixed bag for the real estate sector with positives like rates of granite and marble being lowered from the current 28 percent to 18 percent, and negatives like non-alteration of cement rates."
"As typically, GST in relation to construction becomes a cost to most, non-lowering of the significant tax costs of cement has disappointed the construction industry and customers as a whole," he said.
With IANS inputs